The Case Against Merit

By February 7, 2005General

Official Washington was all abuzz recently over news that the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) harbors dreams of some day revamping its personnel policies. Apparently, DHS wishes to abandon the current inert and byzantine federal system of labyrinthine, arcane and often indecipherable rules, unwieldy personnel practices, bloated bureaucracy and snail-like processes and replace it with one based on — God forbid — merit. Worse yet, word was that the White House was fixin’ to let this meritocracy cancer spread to other agencies as well. Under the new plan, raises and promotions would be based on — gulp — performance rather than the current system of Newton’s First Law of Motion, i.e., “a body at rests stays at rest.” Among other draconian measures, the rules would limit the employee discipline and appeals process to three months — yes, three months — rather than the current “end of civilization” time frame.

This pinned the outrage needle on groups representing federal employees and their Congressional protectors. The unions cried “favoritism” and “politics”, as if tossing employees out into the cold cruel world of rules of the private sector marketplace would leave them somehow unprotected. As we manufacturers know all too well, among the rules of the private sector workplace are some 68 labor and employment laws that provide lots and lots of protection.

The unions, of course, showing some rare nimble moves of their own, when four of them joined to file suit the same day, in hopes of preventing any whisper of merit from creeping into the federal system.

Stay tuned.